Bike to Work Day Is Good for Local Business

New Study Shows Bike Infrastructure Helps Local Establishments

Bike to work day from a couple of years ago. Photo: SFBC
Bike to work day from a couple of years ago. Photo: SFBC

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day, an opportunity for people throughout the Bay Area to demonstrate support for better bike facilities. There will be commuter convoys, “energizer stations,” and other supporting events throughout.

For information on what’s going on in San Francisco, check out the Bike Coalition’s Bike to Work Day information page. If you’re on the sunny side of the Bay, check out BikeEastBay’s page. And, in a post last week, Streetsblog connected its readers with the happenings on the Peninsula.

Bike to Work Day is an opportunity for some fun with fellow two-wheelers and for the bike-curious to try riding to work for the first time. But cyclists will notice something else going on, and that’s lots of commerce.

In fact, a new study of three retail streets in San Francisco, authored by Joseph A. Poirier at the University of California at Berkeley, was published this month. It compared sales at businesses that abutted new bike facility “interventions” (meaning new lanes) and compared the before-and-after effects on businesses on Valencia, Polk, and Columbus Avenue.

The conclusions were quite interesting and varied. “Local serving” businesses did well. Some businesses did less well, but, as the study puts it:

    • Bicycle lanes likely do not have the catastrophic negative effect on business that some merchants claim.
    • In two case study neighborhoods, sales per local-serving establishment increased markedly after the
      intervention, suggesting that bicycle lanes can have a positive effect on local-serving businesses.
    • It is not likely that bicycle lanes will increase sales for all businesses. Put more simply, a blanket ‘bicycle lanes are good for all businesses’ statement is likely untrue.

This adds to a growing repository of research that supports the idea that events such as Bike to Work Day and the expansion of biking generally aren’t just good for our health and the environment–they’re good for business. BikeEastBay put together this list of studies on the effects of biking on business. “By encouraging new bike commuters, it could be inferred that Bike to Work Day helps cities save money on infrastructure costs, and results in more people shopping locally by bike,” said Robert Prinz, Education Director for BikeEastBay.

Hard data is important because, as Poirier wrote in the study: “Pushback from merchants during the planning and implementation processes of bicycle lanes in commercial corridors is a significant problem that can delay–or even lead to the cancellation of–bicycle lane projects.”

So get out for Bike to Work Day, and buy a coffee or a snack while you’re at it! You’ve earned it. And speaking of which, when you’re done with your work day, don’t forget to join Streetsblog after the event for a beer at Virgil’s Sea Room! Hope to see you there.

 

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